Chatter: Court clears Israel in US activist death




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Need to know:

An Israeli court today ruled that the state of Israel was not to blame for the death of Rachel Corrie, the US activist killed in the Gaza Strip in 2003.

Corrie, who was 23, died while trying to prevent an Israeli army bulldozer from demolishing Palestinian homes.

Her family had brought a civil claim for negligence against Israel's defense ministry, seeking a symbolic sum of $1 and accountability for their daughter's death.

But the court said Corrie's death was a "regrettable accident," and the state bore no responsibility. "She did not distance herself from the area, as any thinking person would have done," Judge Oded Gershon told a crowded courtroom.

The Corrie family said they would appeal.

Want to know:

Two Tibetan teenagers have died after setting themselves on fire in southwestern China, activists said.

Lobsang Kalsang, an 18-year-old monk, and Damchoek, a 17-year-old former monk, set themselves on fire outside a monastery in Aba county, a Tibetan area of Sichuan province where many self-immolations have taken place.

The Chinese government prevents foreign journalists from visiting the area, making claims hard to verify.

Activists say the self-immolations are protests against tight Chinese control of the region and religious repression.

Dull but important:

Tropical Storm Isaac, on the verge of becoming a Category 1 hurricane, is predicted to make landfall as early as this afternoon. Storm surge and rainfall are the biggest threats.

Current predictions put New Orleans directly in Isaac's path. It is seven years minus a day since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, and understandably jittery residents have been assured that reinforced flood defenses will hold.

President Barack Obama has declared a state of emergency in Louisiana, allowing federal funds to be released to local authorities.

The Republican Party convention is now starting in Tampa, Florida after being delayed by a day. GlobalPost's Jean MacKenzie is there and ready to take it by storm.

Just because:

Do your stoner friend's theories about government spies and Doritos sound stupid?

That's because they probably are stupid. A new study has found that teenagers who smoke pot before they turn 18 are at risk for a lower IQ.

Researchers found that marijuana can be toxic for young brains. And the damage was permanent: adults who stopped smoking pot as they grew older failed to gain back the IQ points they lost.

But, phew, it's just the developing brains that marijuana seems to harm. "I'm fairly confident that cannabis is safe for over-18 brains, but risky for under-18 brains," a researcher told the BBC

Strange but true:

At last, some good news for poor Cecilia Jimenez, the well-intentioned 81-year-old Spanish woman who tried to restore a centuries-old church fresco of Jesus Christ.

Her botched restoration of "Ecce Homo" ("behold the man") by a famous Spanish artist went viral, and has been dubbed "Ecce Mono" ("behold the monkey").

But now for the good news: her handiwork is drawing hundreds of visitors to see the fresco, a veritable tourism boom for the small town of Borja.

"The truth is that we should be thanking her because of how much it has helped catering trade in town. It is amazing," a resident of the town told Reuters. "We were having economic problems and thanks to this woman we are recovering. They are crucifying her and, to be honest, I don't get it."